Abraham Lincoln once famously said, "Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people."
The U.S. Supreme Court will be challenged to uphold Lincoln's principle as it decides whether to hear four cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and one case challenging California's Proposition 8, which affirmed marriage as between one man and one woman through a direct vote of the people.
What is being weighed in the balance is a fundamental understanding of the role of the judiciary and that of the American people. The Supreme Court should review these cases and rule that the matter should be left for Americans, not the judiciary, to decide.
According to our Founding Fathers, the primary responsibility of the judicial branch is to interpret and apply laws according to the U.S. Constitution. Any deviation from this duty exceeds the judiciary's legitimate authority and infringes on the people's rights.
Although the mainstream media, Hollywood and cultural elites have already decreed that marriage can and should be redefined, the American people have said otherwise. The time-honored tradition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is not something arbitrary, to be determined at will by the most vocal activists. Rather, it is a bedrock social institution predetermined by God and natural law. It has immutable purposes that cannot be changed no matter how much anyone desires to do so. The American people agree.
In fact, when the citizens of various states have had the opportunity to vote on marriage, Americans overwhelmingly have voted to preserve it as is. To date, 32 states have upheld marriage as the union of one man and one woman from 1998 to 2012--a 15-year period where Americans from all over the country have agreed on marriage.
These votes are from people of all faiths, backgrounds and origins, even people without any religious affiliation or belief, living in red and blue states, spanning both coasts, as well the northern and southern parts of the country. They all agree on one important point: the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Throughout the history of these 32 state votes, the voters have expressed their sovereign will, and at times, it has been contrary to the decisions of courts, legislatures and political forces of every variety. Judges should not arbitrarily disregard the will of the people and impose their will through judicial decree. When they have, the people, to whom judges are accountable, have imposed serious consequences.
In 2009, in the case of Varnum v. Brien, seven Iowa Supreme Court justices unanimously imposed a redefinition of marriage on the people of Iowa that Iowans clearly did not want.
A year later, the people removed three of those judges from office following a judicial retention election. Justice David Wiggins, one of the seven judges in question, could also be removed on Nov. 6 when people cast their vote on the fate of his seat.
Moreover, last year, the New York State Legislature became the first with a Republican-controlled chamber to approve marriage between same-sex couples. During the primaries, voters didn't forget. Republican Sen. Roy McDonald, who voted to redefine marriage, was defeated by pro-life, pro-family Kathy Marchione. Democrats Carl Kruger and Shirley Huntley were also voted out. Republican Sen. James Alesi from Rochester apparently saw the writing on the wall and chose not to run.
Americans overwhelmingly want elected officials to respect marriage. The people's message is clear: In the end, only representatives who share their values and their views for the future of society will get elected and remain in office.
Although many in the media twist the statistics to claim that we are a country divided over marriage, their clamoring ignores that marriage is a unifying principle in our nation, as a majority of voters have so far demonstrated.
This is not to say the issue is not being debated in America. Clearly it is - but that's just the point. It is up to "we the people," not to the judges who serve us, to determine the fate of marriage. The Supreme Court should accept the marriage cases coming before it and make that clear.
The voting record demonstrates that this is what the people want. And the people are the boss.
Alan E. Sears, a former federal prosecutor during the Reagan administration, is president, CEO and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
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